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How to remove a tick from your dog's ear?

three dogs in a field advice © Unsplash

Ticks can be a real pain to remove, especially when they’ve burrowed themselves into your dog's ear. So here are few tips on how to spot and remove ticks from your dog's ear.

By Ashley Murphy

What are ticks?

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that latch onto dogs and other animals. They tend to be found in wooded or rural areas, but they can also live in your garden. Despite what some people think,  they don't jump from host to host like some other parasites; ticks fall or climb onto passing animals instead. They vary in size from 1mm-1cm and the adult ticks look like mini spiders. Ticks can also transmit bacterial infections and viruses, including Lyme disease, so they need to be removed as soon as possible.

Why does my dog have ticks in his ears?

Ticks like warm, damp places. It's the perfect breeding environment, and a single female tick can lay between 4000-6500 eggs!

How will I know if my dog has ticks in his ears?

You might be able to see them. Some ticks are big enough to be spotted with the naked eye, and at first glance, they look like small dark pebbles lodged into your dog's skin. You can also feel them so it's well worth making regular tick checks, especially after walks in wooded or rural areas. Just run your hand across your dog's body, paying particular attention to the hind area and the ears. If you notice any bumps, then your dog may have ticks.

Ticks can make things pretty uncomfortable for your dog, especially if they get into their ears. Some ticks can make it all the way down to the ear canal, which is very unpleasant for a dog. You'll notice them scratching their ears much more than usual. They’ll also be shaking their heads as they try to dislodge the ticks. Unfortunately, this isn't going to work. You'll need to remove the ticks yourself.

How to remove ticks from your dog's ears

Before you get started, make sure you've got the following items:

  • Tweezers or a tick remover (you can purchase these from almost all pet shops or online retailers.)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rubber gloves
  • Cotton wool

Start by firmly grasping the front end of the tick with your tweezers. This is the point where the tick is attached to your dog. If you pull from any other area, you risk snapping the tick and leaving the head inside your dog. This isn’t good; it can lead to infections and will be very uncomfortable for the pooch. Pull slowly but firmly, and don’t twist. Once you've got the entire tick out, drop the nasty little thing into the rubbing alcohol. Then repeat until all the ticks are gone. After that, wipe the ear with alcohol or soapy water  - this will relieve the pain and itchiness, as well as preventing any infection. Once you're finished, make sure you wash your hands properly. Ticks can also transmit diseases to humans, and some of them are very unpleasant.

This short video will show you how it's done:


Now here are a few things you should NOT do when removing ticks from your dog's ears:

  • Don’t crush the ticks between fingers. Remember: ticks carry nasty diseases
  • You may come across a few old wives tails about how to remove ticks but don't believe them!Petroleum jelly, a hot match, or nail polish can actually increase the chances of infection
  • If the ticks are deep inside the ear canal then ask a vet to remove them instead. You don't want to be poking around in there with tweezers - you could cause some permanent damage.

Tick prevention

Once you've removed all the ticks from your dog's ear, you may want to invest in some tick prevention. You can choose from sprays, medicines, or shampoos. They work by repelling any ticks, but they need to be reapplied every two weeks or so. Other options include tick collars - they're a bit more expensive, but the effects will last much longer.

Making a few adjustments to your dog routine will also help. Tick season really kicks in between March and June, and then August to November. Try to stay away from wooded or rural areas, or at least make extra checks during the tick seasons. And remove any ticks ASAP. One or two ticks won't necessarily bother your dog, but they’ll soon start spreading and may lead to serious infections or disease.